Editorial - Causes before clothes

The birth of democracy and the end of racist laws after decades of apartheid was a liberating experience in more ways than one. For the democratically elected MPs and MPLs of the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures, this freedom also translated into what they wore.

Many jettisoned a dress code that mimicked that of elected representatives in Westminster and elsewhere. Suits and ties were no longer de rigueur in Parliament – and we were finally spared the sight of those men in dark suits and Homburg hats.

It helped, too, that there were many women MPs and MPLs who donned kaftans and colourful dresses, and who understood that it was not what they wore but what they did and said that would make them good public representatives and ensure that this would be a “people’s Parliament”.

Enter the Economic Freedom Fighters in 2014 and suddenly Parliament and the legislatures have MPs and MPLs wearing overalls and domestic worker apparel.
Should this be a problem? No. At least our national legislature, unlike those in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, gets this.

The Gauteng speaker who ejected EFF members from the chamber surely has better things to do than worry about dress codes. Her actions also gave the EFF an opportunity to act up, protest and invade the legislature, and the ensuing police action made them look like victims – more publicity for the red berets.

At the same time, the dignity of the house should be observed. But it’s manners that maketh the man or woman, not clothes. The EFF’s antics inside and outside the legislature, not their clothes, are what damages the decorum of the house.

Whatever you wear, turning important arms of state into a circus is unacceptable. Threats to use force to ensure that EFF MPLs are able to participate in Friday’s sitting of the Gauteng legislature are also unacceptable. The EFF’s Tuesday “sit-in” at the Gauteng legislature diverted police from their real jobs – fighting crime and keeping citizens safe.

It’s time to stop the gimmicks and roll up the sleeves of those overalls. There is work to be done.

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